updated 04:04 pm EDT, Thu June 13, 2013
Group wants phone makers to implement permanently disabling kill switch
New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon today announced the formation of a nationwide "Secure Our Smartphones" initiative aimed at encouraging the cell phone industry to adopt technologies that would deter theft by drying up the secondary market on which stolen devices are sold. The pair of officials announced the formation on the same day representatives from Apple, Google/Motorola, Microsoft and Samsung participated in a Smart Phone Summit convened in New York City
Co-chaired by Schneiderman and Gascon, the SOS initiative is a wide-reaching coalition of state Attorneys General, District Attorneys, major city Police Chiefs, state and city Comptrollers, public safety activists and consumer advocates from around the country.
"The epidemic of violent street crime involving the theft and resale of mobile devices is a very real and growing threat in communities all across America," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "According to reports, roughly 113 smartphones are stolen or lost each minute in the United States, with too many of those thefts turning violent. This nationwide coalition of leaders is committed to doing everything in our power to encourage industry to be good corporate citizens and take responsible steps to ensure the safety of our consumers."
According to Consumer Reports, the theft of cell phones makes up between 30 and 40 percent of all robberies nationwide. In 2012, 1.6 million smartphone thefts occurred and were reported to law enforcement in the US. A Harris poll of phone owners found that nearly 10 percent said their phone had been stolen at one point, and a recent study found that lost and stolen cell phones cost consumers over $30 billion last year.
None of the manufacturers invited to the summit have made any comment on the formation of the initiative. The group wants manufacturers to develop technology including a "kill switch" that would enable stolen devices to be permanently disabled, eliminating the economic incentive to steal devices. While the technology exists to completely wipe phones remotely, and exists in add-ons for Android and in the iOS, neither implementation permanently eliminates the phone's functionality.